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Lasers and the Archives

August 24, 1991

As owners of the MGM Film Library, we at Turner Entertainment Co. were pleased with the review Barbara Saltzman wrote on the recent laser disc release of "The Crowd" and "The Wind" ("A Double Feature at Apex of Silent-Film Art Form," Calendar, Aug. 16). Saltzman made some comments to which, from an archival point of view, we would like to respond:

She refers to the remnants of "Greed" having previously been released on laser disc, which could leave the impression that the originally photographed 42 reels survived. It is well known that this film was taken away from the director, Erich von Stroheim, and cut to its present 10 reels (about two hours) in 1924. None of the deleted footage has ever turned up and was undoubtedly destroyed by the studio 67 years ago.

In these days of miniseries, Von Stroheim would be in his glory, but when "Greed" was made, a nine-hour movie was deemed unusable. As far as we know, no one survives who saw the complete film, and contemporary reviews of the released version were very negative.

As to the alternate ending of "The Crowd," we agree that it would be nice to see it as an added item on the laser disc but regrettably cannot supply something that, again, does not exist. Even though we maintain what is probably the best preserved of the major film studio libraries, sequences deleted from films at the time of their original release were not retained by the producing company. It is only due to Kevin Brownlow's finding an original print in a European archive that we have the complete release version of "The Crowd" today.

Reviews such as this are wonderful in bringing the availability of classic motion pictures to the attention of their admirers, but we don't want to give the impression that anything is being held back.

RICHARD P. MAY

vice president,film services Entertainment Film and Tape Services Co.

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